PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As countless purchases were made across the country for Amazon Prime Day, many protested the company’s working conditions in the Portland metro area.
Former and current employees and labor unions held a rally outside of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Hillsboro on Tuesday.
They demanded a safe work environment, higher wages, increased respect and opportunities for growth. The protesters cited working hours without sufficient breaks, constant standing and no medical benefits as their hours are capped at part-time.
Helen Clement has worked at the Amazon warehouse in Hillsboro for 2 years.
“I can end up working 5 hours and have 30 minutes off and then another 6 hours and I’m on my feet continually,” Clement said.
Following the Hillsboro rally, Amazon Workers Solidarity Campaign released the following statement in part:
“Workers at Amazon are subjected to unsafe working conditions, forced to work like robots for minimal pay, constantly increasing pace of work, and physically harmful labor…
Amazon has been cited by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violating health and safety rules. Workers are suffering for poverty wages in unsafe conditions while CEO Jeff Bezos profits.”
A spokesperson for Amazon said the company already meets the protesters’ demands.
“Amazon is very proud of our working conditions,” said Amazon Public Relations Manager Shevaun Brown. “We are proud to be providing jobs in safe, comfortable places to work with industry-leading pay.”
Brown claimed the group of union leaders and employees, both past and present, are misinformed.
“Events like this are an opportunity for organizations to capitalize on the news and make a point to further increase their cause,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, a lot of them have not been inside our fulfillment operations — they don’t really understand.”
Amazon also responded to the Portland-area rallies with the following statement:
“As a company, we work hard to provide a safe, quality working environment for the 250,000 hourly employees across Amazon’s U.S. facilities. We provide a $15 minimum wage for all U.S. hourly employees, opportunities for career growth, industry-leading benefits, and hands-on training using emerging technology. Associates are the heart and soul of our operations, and in fact, they are also our number one recruiter for new hires by regularly encouraging friends and family to apply for roles. We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other major employers across the country.”
Dozens of people gathered outside an Amazon delivery station chanting slogans like “Say it loud, say it clear, workers rights are welcome here.”
But company spokesperson Amanda Ip deflected the protesters points.
“Prime Day has become an avenue for our critics,” she told KOIN 6 News. “We are industry leaders in pay. All our associates earn at least $15 an hour. We encourage everyone to work together to help pass legislation on the federal level to increase minimum wage.”
Ip said safety is Amazon’s prime concern for workers and that they strive to continuously make improvements.
“The vast majority of our employees are working inside the building and not outside protesting,” she said. Amazon has an open door policy for workers “and we don’t believe any 3rd-party representation is necessary.”